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Administrators: Fate of Alternative School In SBCSC's Hands

By June 18, 2009 No Comments

by Kelli Cheatham, WSBT Story Posted: Jun 18, 2009 at 5:30 PM EDT on WSBT 22 SOUTH BEND — Erik Bowman, 18, says The Crossing alternative school saved his life. “I was getting into a lot of trouble, skipping school a lot, wrapped up in a lot of the wrong things,” he explained. Now, the board that oversees the school’s South Bend campus says it is in danger of closing. Bowman dropped out of Riley High School and wound up at The Crossing three years ago. “They’re some of the most caring people I’ve ever met,” he said. The unique high school takes in students who have dropped out or were kicked out of public high schools. It currently teaches students from 11 northern Indiana school corporations. “It’s not just school,” explained South Bend Crossing teacher Steven Reynolds. “We spend time with them. We have them over to our houses, make dinner for them.” But The Crossing’s executive director, Rob Staley, says the recession caused a major drop in private funding. That, in turn, put the school in a world of hurt. It’s all about funding, or lack thereof. Right now, the 11 school corporations that have kids enrolled at the several Crossing campuses — like P-H-M, Goshen and Elkhart — pay a fee for each student. South Bend is the only school in the program that doesn’t pay. Without that money, and a partnership with South Bend Community Schools, Staley said the campus will likely have to close. So they are asking for money — $6,000 per student would keep the building open. “It’s a win-win for the community,” Staley said. “We’re going to bring more kids off the street so they’re not involved in violence and drugs.” The writing is on the wall. Nearly two weeks ago, police say Rashad Taylor shot and killed 16-year-old Eddie Ward Jr. outside a gas station. Both boys had been students at The Crossing, but Staley says they dropped out because they couldn’t afford the $10 weekly fee. But is that enough to convince South Bend School Board members to pay up? “We’re in a budget crunch here,” said board member Stephanie Spivey. “We’re in the midst of a recession.” “Knowing that, it makes this kind of hard to say whether it’s really something we could or could not do,” added Sheila Bergeron, board president. Spivey also said she has concerns about The Crossing’s faith-based component. “You have people who are Jewish, Seventh Day Adventist, Jehovah’s Witnesses and some Catholics as well. So my question — is the religious component monolithic for the student body?” she asked. For Bowman, whose just a few months shy of graduation, the thought of not having The Crossing is a problem he can’t afford. “Now I look at my future and it’s important to me, instead of just a blur,” he said. Administrators from The Crossing are presenting their funding dilemma to the South Bend School Board at Monday’s meeting. From there, board members and Superintendent Kapsa will decide whether the issue will come up for a vote. Staley said the school corporation won’t actually be out any money if they end up paying for students to go there, because schools get money based on student attendance — on what are called Average Daily Membership, or ADM days. Administrators at The Crossing said that is typically around $6,200 per student, per year. If the corporation had a partnership with The Crossing, and counted the students who go there in the ADM days, Staley said South Bend actually wouldn’t lose any money at all. “We don’t want to give up on these kids,” he said. ]]>